There are very few records from the fields of psychedelic, hard rock, garage that have such a legendary reputation as the only release of the US band Fraction. A Christian (!) Band from Los Angeles, about which almost nothing is known. Singer Jim Beach teamed up with guitarist Don Swanson and his brother Curt Swanson to form a band. Victor Hemme on bass and Robert Meinel on rhythm guitar completed the line-up. All simple, ragged people from the working class of Los Angeles, who had previously gained their experience in various other bands. The five guys wanted to make music with more bite. They had a small studio in North Hollywood where they rehearsed every day at five o’clock in the morning. During the day they had no time to do so, as they had to earn money in their normal jobs. The voice of Jim Beach stood out for its very strong resemblance to the voice of Lizard King, Jim Morrison of the Doors. The same vocal range, the same howling and howling. The guitars of Swanson and Meinel plunged into abysses of true wah-wah and fuzz. When they had a few songs ready on their own, the five went to Whitney’s studio, which was in Glendale, near Burbank, in early 1971. It was in this studio that Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart recorded some of their legendary records. The bass and drum work in conjunction with the sprawling guitars of Don Swanson and Meinel provided a sound that was somewhere between the Doors, Iron Butterfly and Black Sabbath. The vocals from the beach are a mixture of Jim Morrison and Steve Morgen from the band Morgen. Despite the similarity to the Doors, Jim Beach stated that his favorite band from Los Angeles was rather the band Love around their mastermind Arthur Lee. The studio recordings for their album Moon Blood were completely old-school. This meant that due to their monetary circumstances, the band was forced to speed up the recordings. For the recording session, Fraction had a maximum of three hours available. All songs were played through together by the entire band in one go, without sound effects, overdubs or additional studio gimmicks. For each song, the only recorded first take was used.
The first song, “Sanc-Divided”, inevitably reminds you of “Love Street” by the Doors. Similar psychedelic harmonies with the somewhat hoarse baritone voice of Jim Beach. Only after a good two minutes does Swanson’s lead guitar come into play before the song drifts back into the calm again. However, this calm is soon broken again when the song picks up in force. Track two is titled “Come out of here”, which starts with a slow psych guitar riff. After less than half a minute, the screaming lead guitar pushes into the ear canal. The song remains at a calm, but at the same time driving speed. Beach sometimes roars his soul out of his body hoarsely. Almost nine minutes long is song number three, “Eye of the Hurricane”, which starts quietly with playful guitar harmonies, but after a good minute gains massive power through a distorted wah-wah guitar. The middle section of the song is softly interwoven psychedelia with Beach’s voice singing softly in the background. However, this quiet recovery phase does not last too long. The last six minutes of the song are again in orgiastic, progressive guitar work. Jim Beach screams with the fuzz guitar from time to time . If you had to imagine the following track “Sons come to Birth”, it would be a mountain. To playful harmonies on the guitar, the pleading voice trembles through the verses. The guitar is played surprisingly clean, which turns into a distorted, harder middle section after a good two minutes. The last minute is then held again in the calm style of the beginning. The last song of the album, “This Bird (Sky high)” begins with soft spun melodies, into which the voice of Beach breaks abruptly. A subliminal up and down, which is permeated by the howling vocals. After about four and a half minutes, the song increases into a hard part of a good three and a half minutes which brings the record to a close.
This gem was pressed in a limited edition of only 200 copies on the studio’s own house label Angelus Records with the number WR 5005. Studio and label owner Lorin Whitney also sat at the mixing desk during the recording session. The record was bagged in a cut-out die-cut cover. The cut-out part of the cover was covered from the inside with red cellophane.
The Christian lyrics of Jim Beach are inspired by the alt-rockers The Yardbirds and Bob Dylan. Beach had a clear vision in mind in his work. The concept of cover design also comes from his hand. An integral part of the band Fraction is lead guitarist Don Swanson for Beach. His style of wah-wah and fuzz riffs formed a template for the sound that is now known as acid punk or stoner rock. Swanson played a scuffed, broken Fender Esquire that pushed his amplifier to the limit. According to Beach, Swanson was the driving force behind the sound, doing everything he could to keep the musical level at the highest level. However, the rhythm section of the group should not be underestimated. Curt Swanson was able to let his drums drift quietly, but to bring the sound to a boil at the right moment. Victor Hemme delivers a solid bass carpet, which forms the basis for the homogeneously interwoven sound. The lyrical theme of the LP, especially on side one, shows an emotionally charged core of dark, heavy lyrics a la “Extend your thumbs and burn the darkness out of it”.
It was once described that this LP was exactly what the Doors would have liked to record. Their quasi-religious theme, however, would have been contrary to Jim Morrison’sideas.
The LP Moon Blood is hard to get as an American original today. For top-preserved specimens, prices of sometimes over 4000 US dollars are paid. Meanwhile, however, there are various repressings, which sometimes even have the original die-cut cover. Partly even with some bonus tracks.
Fraction – Moon Blood
1971 – Angelus Records – WR-5005
A1 – Sanc-Divided
A2 – Come out of her
A3 – Eye of the Hurricane
B1 – Sons come to Birth
B2 – This Bird (Sky high)